Group Targets Content Farms

The mainstream media is trying to root out content farms.

The Internet Content Syndication Council, a consortium of companies mostly with roots in traditional media, this week is introducing a set of editorial guidelines.

The move, which seems mostly symbolic and lacking real enforcement, comes after the ICSC recently sounded alarms about search-driven, often freelancer-produced fare cranked out by companies like Demand Media and Yahoo’s Associated Content. The plan is to get members like Reuters, Turner and The Associated Press to weigh in on the guidelines. Then, a task force will be formed to help implement the final suggestions.

The guidelines, developed this summer, ostensibly serve as best practices for online reporting — but in reality they are aimed at exposing what ICSC members believe to be shoddy content farm journalism. “Nobody benefits from info-spam,” said ICSC executive director Tim Duncan, who referred to content farm articles as “sludge.”

At one point the ICSC considered  some sort of formal seal of approval, which could be attached to articles produced by its members. The group seems to have ditched that idea, instead focusing on promoting Journalism 101 tenets like consistent editorial oversight, fact-checking and timely corrections.

However, one guideline may prove to be controversial; the group recommends “creators and/or publishers of informational content should clearly display the credentials of the sources used to create the material presented.”

Steve Tippie, vp, marketing and licensing, Tribune Media Services, said he is taking this issue “very seriously,” but he wonders about enforcement. “This has to be beyond just publishers. Otherwise it’s just ‘moral-suasion.’ I really do think we need marketers and advertisers on board,” he said. “This has to be market driven.”

See also:
“Lessons From the Content Farm”